Press release:

“A series of East Devon District Council Independent councillors strongly criticised Tory proposals to commence work on a replacement car park, as part of the Queens Drive Regeneration Project, at the EDDC Cabinet meeting on 31 October.

Leading the criticism was Exmouth Councillor Megan Armstrong (Exmouth Halsdon – Independent) who referred to the planned new road as “a road to nowhere”.

Other Independent Councillors expressing concern about the Tory course of action were Independents Roger Giles, Ben Ingham, and Rob Longhurst and EDA Members Cathy Gardner and Geoff Jung.

The first criticism related to timing. Although it was a major and contentious issue, the report for the meeting was issued just 24 hours before the meeting.

Megan Armstrong urged that the report be deferred to allow councillors time to properly consider the proposals, and the implications. She said that sending out the report so late was “manipulative management.”

Cathy Gardner said it was “extremely regrettable that such short notice was given for such an important issue”.

It had originally been agreed that the go ahead for construction of the car park would only be given when agreement had been reached between EDDC and Grenadier about construction of the Watersports Centre by Grenadier.

However the EDDC Cabinet was informed on 31 October that no such agreement had been reached. Merely that verbal assurances had been made.

Roger Giles warned the Cabinet that going ahead without the required agreement carried substantial risks. He cited paragraph 2.7 of the report which said : `Cabinet should be aware that this represents a risk that the council is incurring costs without Grenadier being legally committed to delivering the Watersports Centre thereafter.`

Roger Giles asked whether independent audit advice had been sought about the inherent risk. He was told it had not.

Ben Ingham was strongly critical of undertaking such a high risk strategy.

Rob Longhurst criticised the lack of a business plan, and the absence of costings, and said there was a lack of justification for the departure from the previous strategy.

Geoff Jung questioned the income assumptions; he asked how a smaller car park than the original would generate increased income. He also expressed concern about EDDC`s responsibilities anf financial burden, should Grenadier not develop the site.

Megan Armstrong pointed out that the Cabinet agenda papers (item 10 pages 31 to 35) contained the minutes of the meeting of the Exmouth Regeneration Board on 20 September. The minutes contained no reference to the proposed early construction of the car park!

Megan Armstrong asked a series of critical questions, including about the three outstanding `condition precedents`, and seeking explanation of the beach access agreement.

She complained that questions asked by herself, and by other independent councillors, had not received proper answers. Council Leader Ian Thomas told her he would ensure that she received answers after the meeting; Megan Armstrong was very critical of councillors being asked to make a decision – and then to receive the pertinent information AFTER the decision was made: she said “That is a very poor form of decision making.”

In spite of the failure to achieve the necessary agreements the (Conservative) Cabinet agreed to proceed with early construction of the car park after only 3 Cabinet Members spoke very briefly.

After the meeting Megan Armstrong was highly critical of the Cabinet decision.

“Tonight Tory councillors made an important decision relating to Exmouth, and they denied the people of Exmouth the opportunity to comment on it. The Tory councillors agreed a very high risk strategy without justification for it, and without proper safeguard for public funds for which they are responsible. It is irresponsible political management; Exmouth deserves better.”

“UK nuclear power station plans scrapped as Toshiba pulls out”

Makes you wonder what’s going to happen at our LEP’s favourite (highly vested interest for many board members) project – Hinkley C.

“Plans for a new nuclear power station in Cumbria have been scrapped after the Japanese conglomerate Toshiba announced it was winding up the UK unit behind the project.

Toshiba said it would take a 18.8bn Japanese yen (£125m) hit from closing its NuGeneration subsidiary, which had already been cut to a skeleton staff, after it failed to find a buyer for the scheme. …

The only new nuclear power station to get the go-ahead so far is EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C in Somerset, which started construction in 2016 and is expected to be operational between 2025 and 2027. As well as EDF, Chinese and Japanese firms hope to build further nuclear plants in the UK. …”

“‘I’m scared to eat sometimes’: UN envoy meets UK food bank users”

“At Britain’s busiest food bank in Newcastle’s west end people loaded carrier bags with desperately needed groceries as unemployed Michael Hunter, 20, took his chance to spell out to one of the world’s leading experts in extreme poverty and human rights just how tight money can get in the UK today.

Previous destinations for Philip Alston, the United Nations rapporteur on the issue, have included Ghana, Saudi Arabia, China and Mauritania. But now his lens is trained on Britain, the fifth richest country in the world, and he listened as Hunter explained an absurdity of the government’s much-criticised universal credit welfare programme.

Users have to go online to keep their financial lifeline open, but computers need electricity – and with universal credit leaving a £465 monthly budget to stretch the three people in Michael’s family (about £5 each a day), they can barely afford it with the meter ticking.

I have to be quick doing my universal credit because I am that scared of losing the electric,” he said. Alston mentally logged the situation, ahead of a report ruling on whether Britain is meeting its international obligations not to increase inequality. But it was not just the computer that was too expensive to power.

“Universal credit has punched us in the face,” said his mother, Denise, 57. “Before much longer people will turn to crime. People will smash the windows to get what they want. This is going to cause riots.”

The Hunters’ story was just one of a long list of stark insights into life in poverty delivered by the people of Newcastle to Alston during his trip to uncover what austerity is doing to the people of the UK and “to investigate government efforts to eradicate poverty”.

Last year his no-holds-barred UN report into the impact of Trump-era policies on the US brought a stinging reaction from the White House. The odds are that Alston will say the UK is far from doing enough to meet its obligations. In 1976 the UK ratified the UN covenant on economic, social and cultural rights agreeing that policy changes in times of economic crisis must not be discriminatory, must mitigate, not increase, inequalities and that disadvantaged people must not be disproportionately affected.

But first he must gather evidence, and Newcastle is a good place to start. It was the first city to introduce the new all-in-one universal credit (UC ) welfare payment. The council says central government cuts and rising demand for services mean 60% is being wiped from its spending power between 2010 and 2020. …

Some people have to work five zero-hours jobs to make ends meet, said Phil McGrath, chief executive of the Cedarwood Trust community centre. The trust is encouraging residents to engage in local and national politics to have their voice heard. It is paying off with some people who have never voted turning out at the last general election, he said.

Mike Burgess, who runs the Phoenix Detached Youth Project, told Alston how 18 publicly funded youth workers in the area in 2011 had dwindled to zero today. He described how a young man he worked with was in hospital for months after having a kidney removed. The jobcentre said he had to get back to work or face being sanctioned (losing benefits). He went to work in pain, but his employer realised and said he was not fit.

“There’s no safety net for my lad or people with mental health problems,” he said.

And that is the hidden cost facing many at the sharpest end of austerity in Newcastle.

“In the last two or three weeks we have seen a massive increase in numbers of people with mental health issues and people with breakdown,” said McGrath, blaming benefit sanctions and a lack of social and mental health workers to catch people. “People are just being ground down.”

“[Privatised] Academies record £6.1bn deficit”

“Academy schools in England recorded a £6.1bn deficit at the end of last August, leading to one major teaching union calling them “unsustainable”.

The 7,003 academies received total income of £22.5bn in 2016-17, compared to £20.5bn in the academic financial year before, and spent £24.8bn, compared to £20bn in 2015-16, according to the academy schools annual report and accounts released on Tuesday.

The £6.1bn deficit recorded includes an £8.4bn asset derecognition charge. The government took land and buildings assets off academies’ balance sheets where they did not feel trusts were controlling them, even though, academies continued to occupy them.

The number of academy trusts, charities which academies must be part of, in cumulative deficit at the end of August 2017 went up to 185 from 167 in August 2016, the report showed.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said academies’ financial situation was “unsurprising” given the overall pressures on school budgets. “But it is particularly serious for academies which cannot call on help or support from the local authorities,” he added.

“These accounts also show us why the academy system is unsustainable and undemocratic.”

Academies are independent state schools funded directly by the Department for Education via the Education and Skills Funding Agency – rather than through local authorities.

Courtney said it was “high time” the government recognised the academy system was a “failed policy” that needed to be consigned to the “dustbin of history”.

“We need to return to the principle of local schools, accountable to local communities,” he added.

The accounts also showed that 8% more trusts (from 873 to 941) were paying some staff £100,000 or more in 2016-17 compared to the year before.

The number of staff paying salaries of £150,000 or more went up 3% from 121 to 125 over the same period. …”

“The poor pay for the mistakes of the rich”

In an article on the rise of homelessness in London:

“Austerity has been about the poor paying for the mistakes of the wealthy for years and those who are homeless have paid the most”
Rabbil Sikdar
Lefty Muslim writer

… When a majority of impoverished families are working households or when a million families depend on food banks, then it becomes less difficult to see just why homelessness has become a big a problem as it has. Austerity has been about the poor paying for the mistakes of the wealthy for years and those who are homeless have paid the most. In London, the chances of going overboard and losing everything is always high. The opportunities here are limitless but so are the risks. Take Tower Hamlets as the chief encapsulation of the city’s wonderful prosperity but failure to share it fairly. Here, the financial district exists but so does extreme poverty. High inequality is the unspoken story of London and many of those who cannot cope with the city’s suffocating pressures end up on the streets.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies found that 40% of Londoners’ incomes were being consumed by rent. There is little security in the private rent sector, less so if your job pays poorly or goes. The winners in this crisis are landlords who, according to a Savills report published earlier in October, were benefiting from the steep rise in people renting, due to the housing crisis, and being able to charge high rents. The latter often leads to landlords being subsidised by the welfare state due to the housing benefits which many renters need to get by.

There is a tendency to sometimes disconnect issues from the wider political narratives pumped out by those in power, to treat it as isolated incidents, but the awful plight of the homeless in London is a sign of how the Tories have looked at the poor.”

Universal Credit – the tide turns

Claimants could be up to £7,500 a year worse off:

For two days a week, I can’t afford to eat:

Benefits freeze could cost Tories next election:

Historic Axmouth wreck at risk

Historic England At Risk Register, Devon

“The Axe Boat, Axmouth

The Axe boat dates to the late 15th or early 16th century. In 2001 shifting tidal patterns revealed the wreck in the silt of a former harbour.

These wrecks are extremely rare with very few surviving examples known around our entire coastline.

Its timbers are well enough preserved to reveal details of the techniques used by medieval shipwrights.

The biggest threat to the wreck comes from fluctuating silt levels, as when its sodden timber dries out it begins to decay; exposed timber is also subject to biological attack.

There is also a risk of accidental damage or loss of historic fabric due to floods, storms, and contact with small vessels using the channel.

The Axe Boat has this year been added to the Register and we hope that it will be possible to understand and record more of the vessel, to gain more information about our early shipbuilding history and medieval mercantile past, while we have the opportunity to do so.”